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Friday, November 16, 2012

Second objection: Good deeds of one’s children are not deeds of others

Second objection: Good deeds of one’s children are not deeds of others

Those who cling to the principle that only one’s own acts are the valid means and the acts of others are invalid as means, interpret the tradition in a different sense altogether. They say that a good child is surely his son and shares his lineage, but it is the upbringing of his father that has turned him into a pious person. Therefore, whatever the son does will be directly considered his own act. Whatever good deeds he performs will automatically benefit his father and, therefore, they will be regarded his own unmediated deeds. And they cite the following tradition as a clinching argument for their interpretation:
Whosoever sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and the reward of that also who acted after him according to its subsequence.[5]

Correct view

This is in fact a misinterpretation of the tradition. This is their modus operandi in understanding the import of traditions. They twist their meanings out of shape and focus on the sense that suits their fallacious point of view. It is their normal practice to decontextualize the traditions and dress them in robes tailored by their whims and runaway fancies. Thus the meanings they draw out of the traditions are absolutely unrelated to their themes. If the reader or the listener is mentally alert, he/she will at once come to know the reality of the situation, but a common reader or listener is generally flustered by these misinterpretations.
This is part of their conscious design to mislead the credulous people. The common man, on account of his ignorance and lack of understanding, is easily swayed by their highly capricious, rather malicious, explanations, and treats them as correct interpretations of the Qur’anic verses. In such a state of affairs he will remain a victim of ambiguity or uncertainty unless he turns for clarification to a religious scholar who is gifted with both vision and knowledge to interpret them correctly and in the right spirit in which they were revealed. Allah says:
So you should ask people of knowledge if you yourselves do not know (about something).[6]
It is not being discussed in this tradition whether the good deeds of the children are also the good deeds of the parents or not. What is being discussed is the clear and untwisted fact that the good deeds of the children not only benefit themselves but they also benefit their parents although these have not been performed by them. It makes it further clear that after the death of the parents, children will perform good deeds for their personal benefit alone (which of course is the motive behind these deeds). But their parents will also receive a share of the reward which logically ensues from the commission of good deeds. Similarly, a number of Qur’anic verses are cited by these malevolent scholars to reject the concept of intermediation and to bring home to the gullible people that it is not permissible in Islam. One of these verses is as follows:
And (O beloved,) when My servants ask you about Me, (tell them,) “I am Near. I answer the caller whenever he calls Me. So they should obey and have (firm) faith in Me so that they may find the (right path).”[7]
To draw the inference from this Qur’anic verse that to call anyone except Allah is improper as Allah Himself hears the call and acknowledges it with His blessing, is quite incorrect. The correct position is that it is Allah Alone Who listens to people’s prayers and grants them; it is He Alone Who fulfils our needs. But it is also quite proper to process these prayers through some prophet or saint to expedite their acceptance as it has been debated in the last chapter at length.
The following Qur’anic verses are also offered as argument against the validity of intermediation and intercession:
And fear the day when no soul shall serve as a substitute for another soul, nor shall intercession (of a person) be accepted for it (who does not have Allah’s permission), nor shall any money (as ransom) be taken from it, nor shall (against Allah’s will) they be helped.[8]
You should keep in mind that all the Qur’anic verses, which are supposed to deny the relevance of intercession are meant only for the non-believers and hypocrites who are the fuel of the hell. These are not meant for the believers, as the theme of intercession is relevant only to them. The non-believers are not even marginally concerned with them because the fact of intercession is, first of all, related to belief. And if one is deprived of this precious asset either through perversity or as a result of some divine curse, or if someone possesses it but it fluctuates like the flame of a flickering candle or it is wobbly as jelly, intercession will have no value for him. Therefore, intercession is being devalued or negated for the non-believers. The implication is, and there is sound logic behind it, that when these non-believers do not subscribe even to the basic values of Islam, how can they be expected to appreciate the phenomena like intercession and intermediation. Therefore, the value of intercession is directly based on the value of faith. Since the non-believers reject the faith, it is only logical for them to reject intercession. But the believers accept faith as well as what is derived from it. Thus, on the Day of Judgement, the prophets and the righteous will intercede for their followers, the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) will be appointed to the highest station to make intercession a reality and the non-believers will be wailing and crying in an agony of repentance, ignorance and missed opportunities. As it is stated:
So (today) we have no intercessor nor any bosom friend.[9]
They have no one who will intercede on their behalf, nor anyone who can put in a word of recommendation for them. They are friendless on a day when the need for a friend is agonizingly felt. They are stranded and completely alienated. All they can do is cry and wail. Their cries are a proof of the fact of intercession on the Day of Judgement. If there were no intercession, the non-believers would not have cried; on the other hand, they would have exulted in the baseless expectations of the believers, their cries would have been replaced by fits of ridicule and sarcasm. Thus their moaning and wailing proves the truth of intercession through this Qur’anic verse. It means all the promised and positive things will be there, but the non-believers will look only wistfully at them, as they will be inaccessible to them. Only the believers will benefit from them.
Therefore, to apply the Qur’anic verses to the believers, which were actually revealed for the non-believers and were meant to be applied to them is both improper and perverse. Our sense of propriety demands that we should distinguish between believers and non-believers because it is this basic distinction that decides the division and distribution of rewards and punishments. Therefore, these verses cannot be made as the basis of arguments against the reality of intercession. If intercession is not allowed to the non-believers as a favour and a concession, it does not follow that it is also disallowed to the believers. Thus intercession is a fact but it is exclusively reserved for the believers.

Need for a correct understanding of Qur’anic verses

It is extremely vital to clearly grasp the meanings of Qur’anic verses, especially those which deal with delicate problems. To determine their context and then to explain their genesis and application within these contextual bounds results in a sound interpretation of these verses as well as a clarification of the niggling issues they are revealed to explicate. To fix these bounds of sanity is even more relevant in the present sectarian and polemical environment where each sect tries to browbeat the other sect, and does not hesitate to twist the meaning of a Qur’anic verse out of shape to make his opponent lick the dust. In their sectarian frenzy they do not seem to realize that they are doing a great disservice to their faith. In most cases, their egotistical concerns drive out religious concerns and they bend and twirl the meanings of these verses to pamper their bloated selves. Therefore, in such a situation it is necessary to determine the contextual and semantic range and relevance of a Qur’anic verse. In this regard the collective consensus of sound religious scholars and exegetes should be kept in mind, and any interpretation that strays too far from the text or highlights only marginal issues as a purely innovative exercise, should either be discarded altogether or downplayed to minimize its significance. Such interpretations, posing to be modernistic, are generally inspired by malicious motives to strike at the solid moorings of our faith. Therefore, all such interpretations should be discouraged and one way to discourage them is to be indifferent to them. In this way, the Muslims will learn to follow the correct interpretation and gradually this attitude will moderate the unnecessary tensions that exist between various sects.

[5]. Muslim, as-Sahīh b. of zakat (obligatory charity) ch.20 (2:705#1017); Ahmad bin Hambal, Musnad (4:357 & 359); Bayhaqī, as-Sunan-ul-kubrā (4:175); and Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī, Fath-ul-bārī (13:302).
[6]. Qur’an (an-Nahl) 16:43.
[7]. Qur’an (al-Baqarah) 2:186.
[8]. Qur’an (al-Baqarah) 2:48.
[9]. Qur’an (ash-Shu‘arā’) 26:100-1.